I know I have a backlog of about a dozen posts I’ve been meaning to write, but on this one I feel the need to strike while the iron is hot. It’s about this 60-second television commercial aired during the Super Bowl. In case you haven’t seen it:
Now, I know it’s primarily a right-wing crowd that’s ticked off about this commercial. I’m mostly left-wing but lean right on a few issues. It’s a no-brainer that we as a country benefit when everyone knows at least one common language. Now, the question then becomes what language should that be?
The Declaration of Independence was written in English. The Constitution was written in English. All of our laws are written in English. Our road signs are written in English. The majority of our broadcast media are in English. If instructions for anything are written in only one language, that language is English. It is technically true that English is not the official language of this country, but it really should be named as such by law.
And this is why I think Coke’s ad fails as a piece of advertising. I am fine with showing different nationalities, different colors of skin, even those of differing sexual preferences. But if we can’t even talk to random people in the same language, how much unity do we really have? I have lost count of the number of times I’ve asked a stranger something like “what time is it?” or “which bus was that that passed by?” and got “sorry no speak English” as my response. So when Coca-Cola shows “America the Beautiful” being sung in different languages, and it is hard to tell if parts of the video were even shot in America (at 0:28 Coke bottles are shown which very well could be the Mexican version not necessarily imported into the US, at 0:35 all the signage is in Chinese and there’s nothing to clearly show that this is actually the US). I hope this isn’t the case, but if in fact any portion of this commercial was actually shot outside of the US, it was inappropriate to use “America the Beautiful.”
I’m not even sure what they are trying to communicate. It’s a video montage with a song whose melody I recognize, but most of which is sung in the language NotEnglish. (I say it this way not to offend, but in the same way that John Polstra used the term “the programming language NotC” to refer to a different and less-known computer programming language.) About the only things I can recognize are the Coca-Cola logo and some obviously American landmarks like the Grand Canyon. If there’s a message of unity here, I missed it.
The advertising would have been improved by showing the singers on camera–different nationalities, skin colors, sexual preferences, what have you–singing “America The Beautiful” in English and only in English. The video as aired could remain the main video shown on screen, with the singers in an inset, or the video as aired could be replaced with the singers entirely. Now the commercial becomes a more obvious promotion of unity behind a common language–and a common soft drink.
I’m disappointed as a Coca-Cola customer that they dropped the ball this badly on such a big stage. I’m not going to boycott Coke, but I’ll definitely be drinking a lot more Dr. Pepper over the next couple of months than I otherwise would have.